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Creating Effective Research Assignments for Your Students: Pitfalls

Help your students have a meaningful and positive library research experience.

Pitfalls to Avoid Negative Outcomes

The students should know how to use the Madigan Library                              Avoid Pitfalls clip art

      Students are sent to the library with little or no research skills 

WHY?  Do not assume that your students have had prior experience using a campus library, a prior orientation to the Madigan Library, or that their general orientation is relevant to your assignment. Transfer students may have had no experience in the Madigan Library.

Print journal only trap 

      Students are sent to the library to find an article only in a print journal on the shelf

Many of the journals in Madigan Library are only available in electronic databases, which often  include full text-PDF format,  It is the same as using a copier to scan an article in a print journal.  Allowing students to use our databases helps them find valuable focused information on a topic in newspapers, magazines, scholarly and peer reviewed journals.  

The mob scene

      A large class looking for one piece of information or researching one topic.

WHY? Resources will disappear quickly- either they will be taken off the shelf or checked out. Both scenarios prevent other students from completing the assignment and they will form the incorrect impression that they will never be able to find information in the Library.

The shot in the dark

      Students working from incomplete or incorrect resource lists; assigned materials are not owned by the Library; vague topics are assigned or approved.

WHY? students will get frustrated and again assume incorrectly that the Library does not have the information they need.

The needle in the haystack

      Students are sent to the Library to find obscure facts.

WHY? A library scavenger hunt or treasure hunt, unless focused on the research process and the use of the information found, is usually an exercise in futility- and students will realize this quickly. The Librarians frequently locate the answers - not the student!

The sloppy topic

      Students are sent to the Library with an approved topic that is too narrow or too broad

WHY?  Students don't understand a good background on their topic.  Helping students to gather background information to narrow or broaden a topic is essential to a good research topic.

The resources are not in the Library

Students are sent to find resources that are no longer in the Library

WHY?  The materials that Madigan Library owns or leases change from semester to semester. Madigan Library may not own or lease the same materials as other libraries you have used. Retest an assignment before giving it out.

Contact your Subject Librarian for assistance in building a meaningful, workable assignment.